Plus, three regional filmmakers have been selected for the 2023-24 INDIE GRANTS program.
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Get involved, Soda Citizens
Woman duct taping a box closed at a food drive.
Give back to our vibrant community. | Photo via AllSouth Federal Credit Union
Maybe you have some extra time on your hands, or maybe you’re just in the giving spirit. All we know is there are more than enough great causes in Columbia to support with your time.

Whether you’re an animal lover, an artsy type, a natural mentor, or a healthcare enthusiast — there’s a nearby volunteer opportunity for you. Here are 35 ways to get involved in the Soda City.

If the holidays are your favorite time of the year

Harvest Hope | Help feed families during the holidays by volunteering for the crisis pantry or organizing a food drive.

Families Helping Families | Sponsor a family, disabled adult, or senior citizen and help provide those in need with food, clothing, and holiday gifts.

Epworth Children’s Home | Volunteer or donate to “Christmas with Epworth” — an annual drive for community members to fill the holiday wishes of children at Epworth.

If you’re a mental health advocate

National Alliance on Mental Illness | You can support those experiencing mental illness by leading a support group, sharing your story as a presenter, or assisting in other areas like outreach, events, recruiting, social media, graphic design, and more.

Mental Illness Recovery Center, Inc. | MIRCI creates pathways to recovery for individuals who are experiencing or at risk of mental illness + homelessness. It also offers committee opportunities to find the best fit for you to give back.

If you live and breathe Columbia

Columbia Museum of Art | Help instill a love for the arts by facilitating art experiences, providing customer service, supporting administrative tasks, and more.

Historic Columbia | Support fun + educational events, work as an interpretive guide, host walking tour guides, and more.

Serve & Connect | Fill out a form to find an opportunity to help the organization’s mission to help police and citizens work together as one community.

The outdoorsy types

Congaree Riverkeeper | Participate in river sweeps throughout the year + learn how your daily practices affect our rivers.

Keep the Midlands Beautiful | Keep Cola’s roads clean by adopting a highway, street, or waterway + helping on clean-up days throughout the year.
City Guide presented by AllSouth Federal Credit Union.
The causes I feel most passionate about are…

A. Arts and cultural institutions
B. People experiencing homelessness
C. Minority and disadvantaged groups
D. Pets and animals
Monday, Nov. 20
Tuesday, Nov. 21
  • Thanksgiving Preorders at Good Life Cafe | Tuesday, Nov. 21 | 9 a.m.-7 p.m. | Good Life Cafe, 1216 Taylor St., Columbia | Starting at $19 per person | Treat yourself to hummus, dessert delights, and complete Thanksgiving Orders at $19 per person.
  • Oyster Series | Tuesday, Nov. 21 | 6:30-8 p.m. | Smoked, 1643 Main St., Columbia | $60 | Learn to appreciate oysters like a fine wine by discovering the nuance of flavor by the climate of origin, taste, texture, and salinity.
Wednesday, Nov. 22
  • Holiday Lights on the River | Wednesday, Nov. 22-Sunday, Dec. 31 | 6-10 p.m. | 6071 St. Andrews Rd., Columbia | $25-$75 | Journey through more than two miles of lights featuring colorful, animated light displays of all shapes and sizes.
Friday, Nov. 24
  • Black Friday Flea | Friday, Nov. 24 | 6-9 p.m. | NoMa Warehouse, 2222 Sumter St., Columbia | Free | It’s like a regular NoMa Flea but with holiday deals, decorations, and visits with Santa.
Saturday, Nov. 25
  • Gamecock Football vs. Clemson Tigers | Saturday, Nov. 25 | 7:30 p.m. | Williams-Brice Stadium, 1125 George Rogers Blvd., Columbia | $115-$175 | The Palmetto Bowl is back — root for the Gamecocks as they take on their in-state rivals, the Clemson Tigers.
  • Bierkeller Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) | Saturday, Nov. 25-Sunday, Dec. 17 | Times vary | Bierkeller Columbia, 600 Canalside St., Columbia | Free | Delight in the charm of a traditional German Christmas market along the Congaree River.
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Light up the holiday season with the Fireflies
Columbia Fireflies
Tickets are $10 in November and $12 in December; Children two and under are free; Military members, First Responders, and seniors aged 65+ receive $2 off their ticket with valid ID. | Photo provided by Columbia Fireflies
It’s lit, COLA — we’re talking about Segra Park for this year’s Fireflies Holiday Lights.

Stop by the stadium now through Dec. 31 from 6 to 9 p.m. to get your glow on and participate in activities:

For the family

  • Visits with Santa daily through Dec. 23 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
  • Mason Mondays: Mason the mascot will be available for pictures
  • Tuesday Ugly Sweater Parties: Break out your best ugly holiday sweater and receive a voucher for one free hot chocolate
  • Kids 12 and under will get a voucher for a free hot dog and a drink upon entry — only available on Sundays

For the adults

  • Check out the Vendor Village to shop for holiday gifts
  • Thirsty Thursdays: Enjoy $1 fountain sodas, $1 hot chocolate, $2 domestic draft beer, $3 craft draft beer, and $3 house cocktails

For your furry friends

  • Winter Wag-Along Wednesdays: Bring your four-legged friend to see the lights on Wednesday nights
Bonus: Make the holiday season even more tree-mendous by buying a fresh-cut Christmas tree from Richardson Tree Farm through Dec. 17.
News Notes
  • Scout Motors Inc. has opened its first SC office in the BullStreet District until the construction of the new production center in Blythewood. The office is located in BullStreet’s First Base Building and aims to open a public showroom to share more about its operations. (Cola Daily)
  • 3. That’s the number of regional filmmakers who have been selected for the 2023-24 INDIE GRANTS program by the SC Film Commission. The chosen projects include “The Off-Brands” from Columbia, “Lazzo” from North Charleston, and “Clonely” from Greenville.
  • The FBI’s new 87,000-sqft field office has officially opened in Lexington after a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The facility is expected to facilitate better communication among agents and support staff, streamlining operations for increased efficiency. (WIS TV)
  • Coach Dawn Staley, the head of USC’s women’s basketball and an Olympic gold medalist, will receive the 2023 Global Vision Award from the Columbia World Affairs Council, recognizing her contributions to projecting SC globally, achievements in basketball, and leadership at USC.
  • Columbia’s Design/Development Review Commission approved the design for a new, non-student-focused 250-unit apartment complex potentially coming to The Vista. Developers will consider public input as they finalize the design before moving to the construction phase. (WLTX)
  • Camille Griffin Graham Correctional in Columbia is set to implement a $1.2 million project to grow lettuce in modified shipping containers, a hydroponic farming method. The initiative aims to reduce prison cafeteria costs and equip inmates with farming skills for post-release job opportunities. (SC Daily Gazette)
  • $22.3 billion. That’s the economic impact of South Carolina Ports in the Midlands. SC Ports is keeping freight moving across the state, attracting companies to invest in new facilities and expanded operations that create jobs + opportunities in our region for generations to come. Here’s how.*
  • Text message scams are on the rise. The best way to protect yourself and your finances: knowing what to watch out for. Check out these ways to spot a text message scam.*
  • Did you know? Greenville, SC is a pet-friendly haven for travelers. Plan the paw-fect trip with these dog-friendly experiences.*
Which vacant office spaces would you like to see become affordable housing?
The Columbia skyline in afternoon light | Photo by @sodacityaerials
We’ve been discussing developments happening around town, including West Columbia, dream developments, and what developments you would bring to our riverfronts if you had the power to do so.

But, have you noticed some of the empty office space around town? Office vacancies are currently at 8.5% as of October 2023, according to Cushman & Wakefield MarketBeat. Compare those numbers to the national office vacancy rate, which was 17.8% as of September 2023. One possible use for vacant offices? Affordable housing.

Recently, the White House released a new plan to convert commercial buildings into residential housing — affordable housing in particular. Resources will be made available from 20+ programs across multiple agencies, including the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

We’re talking below-market loans, grants, and tax credits... all available to help take advantage of preexisting buildings to make more affordable housing.

Which vacant spaces would you like to see converted?

Have you passed an empty office building that would be a sweet apartment? How about some empty warehouses near public transportation that would make for a quick commute?

Tell us which spaces you’d like to see remade into housing, and we may feature your picks in an upcoming newsletter.
The Buy
A Black Friday deal on the ultimate gift: A Bwine F7 GPS Camera Drone. They’ll have fun flying it and capturing incredible footage. Get it for $529.99 $370.99.
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The Wrap
Samantha Robertson in a white shirt and grey vest Today’s edition by:
From the editor
We’re looking for a few more submissions — Thanksgiving is next week and we would love to know some of your traditions. Whether it’s a recipe you make, a funny decoration you put up, or something you eat, say, sing, do, or bring — share your holiday tradition with us and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.
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